Strike, intimidation cripple petrol stations

2010-09-02 08:05

Non-unionised petrol attendants on the East Rand and in Johannesburg were intimidated into joining the strike for better wages organised by the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) yesterday, forcing some petrol stations to close.

Numsa represents over 70 000 workers at petrol stations, workshops and motor dealerships across the country.

Knobkerrie- and stick-wielding demonstrators marched through the streets of Mulbarton, Alrode, Brackendowns and Booysens, collecting fellow petrol attendants who were made to join in.

Most of the garages were left without personnel.

Vinesh Reddi, manager at the Bracken South Caltex garage, said the demonstrators came to his petrol station twice during the day and asked him to close shop and let his petrol attendants join the strike.

“If you continue working, we will vandalise the place,” the marchers told Reddi.

He said six of his unionised workers joined the strike and a few that worked had to put on plain clothes.

“When they came for the second time demanding that we close shop I called security to try and safeguard my business. It hurts our business because now the shop is closed,” he said.

Younis Vally, manager at Nu South Engen in Booysens, said most of his customers left when they saw strikers forcing his workers to join them.

“They carried knives and knobkerries and forced my cashier out,” Vally said.

“She was really frightened.”

He said his workers were dragged and forced to join the strike.

Vally said he sympathised with the strikers for seeking better wages but was against them intimidating those that do not want to join the strike.

‘No intimidation’

Numsa national spokesperson Castro Ngobese denied that the strikers were intimidating non-strikers.

He said the strike was directed at the Retail Motor Industry (RMI) and Fuel Retailers Association (FRA) who had failed to meet their wage demands and “improve conditions of employment” for more than three months.

Ngobese said: “Garage owners have (employed) their girlfriends to provide cheap labour instead of addressing genuine worker demands.”

Dennis Matsane, Shell South Africa communications manager, confirmed the strike activity at some of its retail sites around the country but said it was too early to assess its effect on business.

He said the company was monitoring the situation, but the decision to keep service stations open would be made by the respective retailers depending on whether it was safe to continue operations.

  • Numsa demands, among other things, a minimum of R20 per hour in the motor sector industry, full benefits for employees employed on short-term contracts and not less than double-digit wage increases in both the motor and tyre sectors.

Ngobese said the strike would continue until the employer puts a revised offer on the table.

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